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Advanced fibre sensors for fluid mechanics and airborne measurement

The National Flying Laboratory Centre – Cranfield University: In-Flight Measurement and Research

Professor Nicholas Lawson CEng PhD FRAeS MSFTE

The National Flying Laboratory at Cranfield University operates three aircraft for research and teaching. The aircraft range from a 7000kg Jetstream 31 turboprop with 19 seats, to two tandem-seat 1000kg aerobatic piston engine aircraft. This presentation will describe the aircraft and their application in a research environment, with work ranging from the development of fibre optic pressure and strain sensors in-flight, to the study and validation of an unsteady CFD model of a stalling Slingsby light aircraft. In all cases, the challenges of in-flight measurement will be discussed and the benefit of combining in-flight activity with CFD models.


Professor Nicholas Lawson holds a Chair in Aerodynamics and Airborne Measurement and heads the National Flying Laboratory Centre at Cranfield University. He is also a Chartered Engineer, a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society and a member of the Society of Flight Test Engineers.

Professor Lawson has extensive experience in the development and application of particle image velocimetry (PIV) and laser Doppler anemometry (LDA) to high speed, large scale, non-Newtonian and multi-phase flows. Past applications have involved work for Rolls Royce plc, Airbus UK, Jaguar Racing and MBDA. His current research focus is on the application and development of advanced instrumentation for aircraft and airborne research, where the application of fibre optic sensors in-flight is a key focus of his work.

He holds a commercial pilots licence with MEP IR and instructor ratings, a Jetstream 31/32 type rating and is one of the pilots flying for the National Flying Laboratory Centre.